The Baker and the Bakery

I started baking bread in 2008, just a few months after getting married. I was 22 years old. I had never baked bread before. I really didn’t know much about cooking anything. Previous to getting married, I could make eggs, toast, and pasta. I ate cereal and peanut butter sandwiches multiple times a day.

My husband had dreamed of being a baker. He had tried to make bread many times, always resulting in a dense and disappointing loaf. (Note that he has since found a no-knead beer rye bread that he makes with great results.)

One day, I tried my hand at bread. I used a cookbook that my parents had bought for me when I got married. It was called The Art of Bread, published by the Cooking Club of America. I made the very first recipe, called “Basic White Bread.” It rose beautifully. It was incredible.

I continued making bread, and worked to expand my recipe knowledge. I made country oatmeal bread, savory carrot bread, a dark chocolate bread, seeded breads, various pizza doughs, dinner rolls, and more. For the first several years, I used active dry yeast.

In 2014, I made a sourdough starter. I tried the one in James Beard’s On Bread, but had no luck. (That recipe includes sugar, milk, salt, and even a package of active dry yeast, and I have no idea why.) I read many blogs with other ways of how to make a starter, and landed on an all-purpose flour and water recipe with two feedings per day.

It started to bubble. I made a sourdough bread recipe from King Arthur Flour. I have since memorized the recipe, and can’t seem to find it on their website. I still make this bread because it results in a wonderful, mild-flavored sandwich loaf, good for the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that my children eat weekly.

I much prefer a flavorful, tangy sourdough bread, with lots of holes inside and cracks on the crust, in a roundish shape. So I also make this bread, and we eat peanut butter and jelly on it, too, or we spread it with spicy fermented mustard and add lunch meat. We also love it with avocado and pepperoni and feta cheese.

Bread is such a wonderful blank canvas.

I believe that every table is made better with fresh bread. I believe in tearing baguettes and chewing long. I love a deep crust with an aroma that wafts.

I am still experimenting. I am still learning. As Julia Child said, “The art of bread making can become a consuming hobby, and no matter how often and how many kinds of bread one has made, there always seems to be something new to learn.”

I have failed many times. But I have also, more often, found breads that delight.

I thank you for reading my words. As much as I love bread, I also love words, and I work on both as much as I can. If you are interested in reading more of my words, I invite you to my blog, which has very little to do with bread. It is called Haiku the Day Away, and speaks mostly about motherhood and homeschooling and the emotions of children (and, let’s be honest, the emotions of mothers), but also shows a growing list of my published works.

Life is so delicious. I invite you to come on this journey with me, and I look forward to seeing my fellow Piedmont Triad residents at all the Farmer’s Markets.

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